Tony Mowbray has praised ‘amazing’ Pierre Ekwah as the youngster continues his development at Sunderland. The January signing from West Ham arrived as a raw 21-year-old who had yet to play a senior game but the midfielder has been gradually integrated into the Black Cats’ first team and is growing in confidence week by week.
Ekwah made his first senior start in Sunderland’s draw against eventual Championship winners Burnley and then helped the Wearsiders win at Cardiff City on Easter Monday. And he has gone on to start the last three games of the regular season as Sunderland secured a play-off spot on a dramatic final day of the campaign.
Ekwah brings extra height and physicality to a team that has lost all of its other six-foot-plus outfielders due to injury, with the likes of Danny Batth, Dan Ballard, Aji Alese, and Ross Stewart all sidelined. Mowbray says Ekwah’s off-the-ball work is improving all the time, and that is the area he needs to concentrate on to turn himself into an even better player.
“That part of his game is really coming along, and I keep telling him that if he can develop that physical aspect of his game then what a footballer we’ve got because he can do amazing things with his feet,” said Mowbray. “He’s so clever with his feet, you can see how fast his feet are, and he can see pictures.
“He’s a good footballer, so if he can just add the off-the-ball stuff then he’ll be even better. He’s doing exceptionally well.
“He’s a young boy who had never played a professional game before coming to Sunderland. He’d had a lot of U23 football, but you can see the talent and the physicality that he’s got.
“I’m not sure he’s brilliant in the air at the moment, but at least he’s 6ft 1in so he can help us in that aspect of the game as well.”
Ekwah has yet to score his first senior goal, but he came close in yesterday’s 3-0 win at Preston with only a point-blank save from Freddie Woodman preventing him getting off the mark early in the second half when the game was still goalless. Sunderland’s win, along with Blackburn’s 4-3 victory over Millwall at The Den, meant Sunderland finished sixth in the table and they will now meet Luton Town in the play-off semi-final, with the first leg taking place at the Stadium of Light on Saturday tea-time.
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